By Randy Richmond ,The London Free Press
LONDON, Ont. -- The federal government is set to sign a $120-million land claim settlement Monday that will launch an ambitious and novel effort - an urban reserve in London - to boost southwestern Ontario's economy.
Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt is to join Chief Joe Miskokomon at the Chippewa of the Thames First Nation community centre Monday to celebrate the settlement.
With the federal approval in hand, the Chippewas can begin in earnest negotiations with the city of London and other partners to create a commercial/industrial zone along Hwy. 401.
"The city of London needs economic stimulus and I think we could be a participant in that," Miskokomon said.
The urban reserve would allow companies to get in on tax advantages and federal programs provided to First Nations, and provide jobs and investment for London.
In exchange, the Chippewas would get services and other support from the city.
"We've had several conversations with the mayor (Joe Fontana) about partnering and he's very enthusiastic about that," Miskokomon said. "He wants the same things that we want. People want jobs, good jobs."
The band voted 1,200 to 101 in March in favour of the settlement and has been anxious to get moving on economic development, Miskokomon said.
In return for surrendering a claim on 5,120 acres near Big Bear Creek, the Chippewas gained not only the money but the right to buy 2,017 hectares of land in four communities, anywhere they want, from Windsor, Ont., to Woodstock, Ont.
Of the settlement money, the band is putting $60 million toward monthly income support for its elderly members, $10 million for post-secondary bursaries, $20 million to be divided among adult members, and $30 million for community and economic development.